In January 1976, the Orange County Bicentennial Commission headed by president William Talmadge, purchased the Powell Motor Company building with a portion of the $382,000 given to the County by Helen and Jacquelin [Jack] Taylor with the idea of having an agricultural museum. Mrs. Taylor was more intent on a presidential museum, focusing on James Madison and Orange born Zachary Taylor. There was a good deal of contention over the appropriate use of the Taylor gift, however, eventually the Commission determined to move ahead on their project, "The James Madison Museum of Agriculture" - honoring "the best farmer in Virginia" according to Thomas Jefferson, and acknowledging Madison's vital interest and leadership in agricultural reform.
Prior to the building's adjustments for a museum, it had been home to Powell Motor Company & Trucking (1930's - 1960's), then an upholstery business before becoming vacant. With roughly 7,000 square feet the building was large enough to accommodate their plans, especially the large automotive/trucking bay which would be appropriate for the larger pieces of farming equipment.
By May, the building had been given a bit of a facelift, receiving new doors and fresh paint (SEE PHOTO from "Orange County Review", May 27, 1976, P. 5) and was presenting agricultural exhibits as well as information about Madison.
July 4, 1976, A special program was held honoring Madison and his contributions to government and agriculture.
August - The OC Bicentennial Commission announced the plans to establish The James Madison Memorial Foundation, to "commemorate the life and times of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the Free Enterprise System; more particularly, to memorialize James Madison of Orange County, fourth President of the United States; his own life and times and his interest in and contributions to the fields of political theory and government, economics, and agriculture".
October - The James Madison Memorial Foundation formally founded, its initial Board of Directors were Henry DeJarnette, Robert C. Edwards, William H.B. Thomas, Mrs. Alfred T. Burruss, and Joseph e. Morse. The "primary attention" of the museum given to "exhibits relating to James Madison and his contributions....." Further, exhibits relating to agriculture will be assigned to the large automotive bay (rear hall). The vision of Helen Marie Taylor was to have a presidential / constitutional exhibit to be well established by the 200th anniversary of the Constitution, September 17, 1987.
From 1976 into the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, artifacts were donated or loaned by the many families with links to the Madison and Taylor families. The museum exhibited a full mercantile store, seasonal exhibits, textiles, books, furniture and agricultural artifacts; and artifacts of Madison, Monroe, Taylor and Jefferson.
National Trust for Historic Preservation receives ownership of "Montpelier", following court cases.
March-James Madison's Montpelier opens to the public. Property undergoes its restoration until 2008.
The museum was closed for a period to complete the final construction into the building as you see it today. In April, Mr. Madison (John Hall) attended to re-opening ceremony of The James Madison Museum. (SEE PHOTO ABOVE RIGHT)
James Madison's Montpelier restoration is completed. Museum begins to see a downturn in visitation.
January - Museum Director constructs a temporary exhibit room and Black History exhibit room.
September - Museum members vote on an addition to the name of the museum that will indicate the museum's broad Collection: The James Madison Museum "of Orange County Heritage"
September - Museum Director with the aid of Mr. Charles Brewer, graphics artist, recreates Mr. Madison's exhibit room. Members and general public were invited to sponsor new panels upon which they would be recognized for their contribution.
December - Museum Director along with Dr. Hal Young, Jack Hranicky, and Bill Speiden, the Native American exhibit space is created with a mural by Dr. Alan Shotwell as a backdrop to the exhibits.
Museum begins offering Quilling workshops and themed tea events.
January - Museum is open daily rather than Tuesday-Saturday; increases hours to 10-5 rather than 11-4.
March - COVID shuts museum
June 17th - Museum reopens with safety protocols in place.
Erection of the "Charters of Freedom" setting on the museum side lower lot.